Heartburn: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, & Treatments

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn or pyrosis or acid indigestion is the burning sensation in the chest region that can move up to the neck and throat. It usually lasts for a few minutes. It may be a symptom relative to gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and acid reflux.

You may experience a sour or bitter taste in the throat while having heartburn. It becomes worse when you lie down after eating a heavy meal. Mostly it can be treated by lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter medicines.

Heartburn Causes:

Heartburn occurs when the contents of the stomach come up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the food pipe that connects the mouth to the stomach. The bottom part of the esophagus has a valve called an esophageal sphincter that opens when food or fluids come inside the food pipe to enter into the stomach and then closes again.

Sometimes the esophageal sphincter doesn’t close properly after allowing the food into the stomach and at that time the acidic contents of the stomach flow back into your esophagus. This is called reflux. When reflux occurs you will feel a burning sensation in the chest region that is called heartburn. It becomes worse when you lay down or bend down.  These are the cause for heartburn.

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Heartburn Symptoms:

Heartburn is more common in pregnancy. Most people get heartburn after eating spicy foods and lying down immediately after meals. Some common symptoms are:

  • Burning pain in the chest
  • Bitter or sour taste in the throat
  • difficulty in swallowing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Reflux of food into the esophagus

Heartburn Treatment:

Most people often suffer from this disease and they think it is a heart attack because they both have common symptoms like chest pain, difficulty in breathing, arm, and jaw pain.

Mostly heartburn gets better on its without any treatment but if it persists for more than a week and you develop other symptoms like difficulties in swallowing, dizziness, breathless, bloody stools you need to consult a doctor. The doctor will examine the cause of the disease by doing some x-ray, endoscopic, and pH tests and prescribe your best medicine to relieve tour symptoms.

Medication like proton pump inhibitors, antacids, and H2 blockers will be given to control the production of acid in the stomach.

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Occasional heartburn is fine but if suffer from this problem more often then it is a matter of serious concern. It can lead to serious health issues causing esophagitis (inflammation in the esophagus), GERD, and Barrett’s esophagus (disrupts the lining of the esophagus increasing the chance of esophageal cancer).


You can prevent it by making changes in your lifestyle and dietary habits

  • Eat at least 3 to 4 hours before going to bed
  • Avoid overeating and cut down your meals into smaller portions
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol
  • Wear loose-fitting items of clothing
  • Eat slowly by checking down the foods
  • Exercise more and maintain your weight.


Most people get heartburn occasionally but if you experience it regularly you must seek medical help and change your lifestyle and food habits.

If you are unsure whether you are suffering from heartburn or heart attack then immediately seek the advice of health care professionals.